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United Utilities best in class in Top 50 Call Centre programme

Posted on Apr 14 2009
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"We wanted to enter the Top 50 programme because we wanted to get benchmarking data across a broader set of companies, not just in our sector," says Sally Ainsworth, customer strategy director, United Utilities. "But an important consideration was also how to improve our reputation for customer service. In fact, when we first applied to be part of this prestigious group of companies, the poor perception of service from utilities almost precluded us from the selection process."

As it happened, United Utilities outperformed the other companies in the utilities and telecoms sector. "We’re delighted with our position," continues Ainsworth. "We’ve worked really hard on improving the customer experience over the past two years and this has proved to be really valuable recognition of the work we’ve done. And the best thing is that it’s judged by independent mystery shoppers rather than an awards panel, which means it’s based on true experiences, rather than how well you can write a report on how good you are. The whole process has been huge morale boost for the staff - and we’re even using the Top 50 logo in our advertising for new recruits to attract a better calibre of candidate."

Participation has also helped raise the profile of the call centre within the organisation as a whole. While it hasn’t meant additional monetary investment yet, it has improved the operation’s score in United Utilities’ internal customer satisfaction measures.

What’s more, the Top 50 has provided quantifiable evidence as to improvements Ainsworth knew the operation needed to make: "We were able to put together an action plan," she states. "The big one for us was time to answer, which is something we aim to fix ready for 2009. What’s more, examining the empathy and personalisation scores has enabled us to develop a soft skills training programme for our agents. We’ve also changed the induction programme with these elements in mind."

Ainsworth is convinced that customers will benefit from the changes made as a direct result of taking part in the initiative, but she knows that there is still more work to be done. "I can see every company in the Top 50 striving to improve for next year - and we want to be there with the very best of them. It really has been such a positive experience for us, reinforcing what we are doing well, but giving us areas for improvement too."
 

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